RALEIGH, NC: French|West|Vaughan is supporting the launch of Edwards Kirby, a national law firm started by former US senator and presidential candidate John Edwards.
Based in Washington, DC, and Raleigh, NC, the firm's launch marks Edwards' return to the legal industry after two unsuccessful bids for the White House, a sex scandal, and a fraud trial.
To prevent the media from “delving into the gossipy nature” of Edwards' background, the agency has developed a multi-pronged communications strategy.
“Although we have been besieged with media requests from those around the world who want to talk to [Edwards], we want to stay focused on the launch of his firm and why people need a firm like Edwards Kirby to exist and fight for plaintiffs' rights, so that's what we have done,” said agency chairman and CEO Rick French.
French|West|Vaughan has aided the law firm by helping to create its corporate identity and developing Edwards Kirby's website and collateral materials. On the media-relations front, French said access was intentionally limited through a targeted media relations strategy.
“[Edwards] had not done an interview since 2008, so we handpicked business reporters at key publications [including The New York Times, National Law Journal, Raleigh News & Observer, and CBS news affiliate WRAL, giving them the opportunity to sit down and talk to him and his partners about the launch of the firm,” French said.
The selected outlets' coverage has been effective, he added, noting that “hundreds” of media have since picked up the story, keeping reports “fair and balanced.”
Although social media is a part of the mix, it is not an essential component of the campaign's strategy, said French, adding that the firm will need to be selective about the way it uses social platforms.
“If you are going to be on social media, you are expected to engage with the public, and there is only so far you can go with using that medium with a plaintiff-driven law firm,” he said. “Not to mention, [Edwards] would no doubt be asked about his personal life.”
Edwards rose to national prominence in 1998 when he was first elected to the Senate as a Democrat from North Carolina. He ran for president in both 2004 and 2008, before admitting an affair with Rielle Hunter, who was documenting the latter campaign. Edwards also faced federal charges in 2012, with the case ending in a mistrial. The Justice Department dropped other charges.
Representing Edwards has its own unique set of challenges based on his political and personal history, said French.
“There is nothing you can do about past decisions,” he added. “Like anybody else, [Edwards] is looking to take those experiences, let others learn from them, and stay focused on what he can do looking forward.”
The law firm, which will focus on public-interest cases involving social, economic, and individual injustices, also includes Edwards' daughter, Cate; her law partner, Sharon Eubanks; and Edwards' former law partner, David Kirby.